Last week the online gaming world saw a huge development as Ultimate Poker began dealing their first hands of legal online poker in Nevada. The Station’s Casino-backed company now provides the first online gaming throughout the state of Nevada and their exclusive partnership with the UFC promises to bring more to the fans of the promotion. MMAFrenzy spoke with Ultimate Gaming Chief Marketing Officer Joe Versaci to discuss how the new deal will affect poker players, UFC fans, and the future of online gaming in the United States.
So to put it simply, what does the Ultimate Gaming deal mean for online poker players?
It’s currently only available in Nevada for now, but it represents the first step in a very long journey to get online gaming legal in the United States, especially in the form of online poker. We are very proud to be bringing transparency and trust to the US in the form of a really trusted company backed by Station Casinos and the UFC. We’re looking to bring online gaming back to Nevada and will expand into other states as they pass legislation (and set regulations), like New Jersey and Delaware. We feel like we bring a viable solution to bring poker to those players.
What sort of impact do you believe this will have on the gaming industry?
It is huge and definitely positive, I think it is already being felt in the UK and around the world, and they’re looking at how we made it happen in the US market. We’re proud to be the first step and we hope that the companies that come behind us are as committed to doing it the right way and creating jobs as we are.
How will the relationship with the UFC influence the marketing for Ultimate Poker?
Massively important on multiple fronts in ways we cannot fully understand yet. Just from a brand awareness standpoint, the UFC is in 800 million homes and controls their own content, which means that – as the exclusive online gaming partner – we can have our name on the mat in large fights and we have access to their over 10 million Facebook users. This really helps in the critical 21-44 demo as many of them also watch the UFC. This drives down the cost of acquisition and allows us to pass value onto the players.
So since our acquisition and marketing costs are low we can offer more rewards, exclusive UFC prizing, and we’ll continue to do that. I mean just having the clout of the world’s fastest-growing sport behind you is huge because then all the major media companies want to work with you and it allows you to enter any conversation you want to have in the sports and/or entertainment world. It makes it a lot easier for us to get things done than some other company that’s having to work with lower level people in sports, we really get the door held open for us with a lot of these partners.
So what games will be offered? Will it just be Texas Hold’em or games like Omaha Hi-Lo Split, Seven Card Stud, etc.?
It is just Texas Hold’em, the rationale was that we wanted to be first to market and the bar that was set by Nevada Gaming Board was incredibly high. We commend them for that and we wanted to meet and exceed those [demands], especially in the areas of geolocation, player protection, funding trust, and those are what we put as our priorities. So we wanted to be first-to-market with a product we thought we could get through the labs quickly. We are already developing our version 2, which will support over 20 styles of poker.
How can fans of online poker help to influence the process of legalizing online gaming?
There’s a parallel path there, there’s a lobbying and government path. A lot of states are looking to pass some sort of regulation for one form or another of online gaming. Lotteries are particularly active in trying to make it happen, in particular with selling online lottery tickets. So we’re very active on the state level but we are also active on the federal level.
Now the way fans can get involved is by traveling to Nevada and playing in the state. We’re actually putting together a registry so that players from other states can be on record as traveling to Nevada to play in order to use this in our lobbying efforts to give players a real voice to try and move state and federal legislation.
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